14 June 2014

Kenya: UK Closes Consulate Due to Security Concerns

Britain on Friday closed its consulate in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, citing security concerns. All consular services have now been transferred to capital Nairobi, according to a Friday press statement issued by the U.K. High Commission.

"Following the changes made to our travel advice on Wednesday, May 14, the decision has been made to close our honorary consulate office in Mombasa," the statement read.

"The U.K. has a responsibility to inform British citizens of the potential threats aimed at both Kenya and the international community. The travel advice was recently amended to advise against all but essential travel to a specific area around Mombasa," it added.

"This change was driven solely by our objective assessment of the threat faced by British nationals living, working or travelling in the region," read the statement.

Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city and a popular tourist destination, has recently been hit by a string of attacks that the government has blamed on Somalia's Al-Shabaab militant group.

A May 14 travel advisory issued by Britain's Foreign Office warned U.K. nationals against travelling to Mombasa. Following the warning, around 500 Britons were evacuated from the resort city.

Nairobi has criticized the travel warnings issued by Western governments, which it says threaten its economy.

Tourism is the second biggest foreign currency earner for Kenya, which represents East Africa's largest economy.

U.K. nationals have also been warned against travelling to areas near Kenya's border with Somalia and to Nairobi's Eastleigh district, a predominantly Somali neighborhood that has recently been the target of a massive police crackdown.

The closure of the U.K.'s Mombasa consulate comes one day after Kenya announced that it had allocated roughly $2 billion to boost public security.

Mombasa has been hard hit by militant attacks since Kenya sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight Al-Shabaab following a series of kidnappings of foreign tourists from Kenya's coast.

Al-Shabaab also claimed responsibility for Nairobi's 2013 Westgate Mall attack, in which 67 people were killed.

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